LETTER: Temple of Lono vs TMT
I represent the Temple of Lono in the Board of Land and Natural Resources contested case considering a permit application for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to be built on Mauna Kea. The Kahuna of the Temple of Lono Palani Tamehameha Kamehaloha Anuumealani Nobriga also represents the Temple in this proceeding.
On behalf of the Temple, I filed a motion for partial summary judgment before Hearing Officer Riki May Amano seeking to clarify two issues (1) is the summit of Mauna Kea considered sacred, even especially sacred? and (2) Is the traditional faith of the Hawaiian people still practiced?
These questions arose for two reasons.
First, the University of Hawai‘i is the Applicant for the permit for the TMT. The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is an institution that is part of the University of Hawai‘i. On the ‘Imiloa website is a description of Mauna Kea that discusses the sacred nature of the Mountain and particularly the sacred nature of the summit where the telescope is proposed.
The first part of the Temple’s motion simply noted that, through the website presentation, the University is on record as stating the Mountain is sacred and the summit is especially sacred. The statement on the Applicant’s website meant that there was no dispute as to those two facts. The motion for summary judgment sought a ruling from the Hearing Officer on those issues of sacredness.
The second issue arose because in describing the spiritual protocols related to the Mountain, the Imiloa presentation characterized the traditional Hawaiian faith as historical and no longer practiced. The second part of the Temple’s motion sought a ruling that the Temple of Lono clearly still exists and continues to practice.
In response to the motion for partial summary judgment, the University of Hawai‘i filed its opposition. That opposition never mentioned the presentation on the ‘Imiloa website and pretended that it was the Temple of Lono asserting the sacredness of the Mountain, rather than the Temple simply acknowledging what the University said on its website. The opposition also attempted to distort the acknowledgment of the Temple by a federal judge to portray the Temple as a new organization with no traditional base.
Apparently aware that their objections on a factual basis to the Temple’s motion were not going to work, the University then launched an extensive attack on the Temple of Lono. That attack labelled the Temple as fanatical and absolutist. The University argued that the Temple was using the contested case to initiate a religious campaign that would include imposing Temple hegemony on the Mountain. The overall intent of the University attack is clearly to label the Temple of Lono as essentially a terrorist organization. The University did not present a single piece of evidence to back up its slander of the traditional faith.
The foundation of that faith is the Four Gods—the Ocean, the Sun, the Earth and the Fresh Water. Those elements are worshipped because they provide the staff of life, i.e. food. The laws of the traditional faith attempt to maintain a harmonious relationship between Human activity and the Natural World, so that the needs of seven generations are considered in decision affecting the ecological systems. The practice of the faith is found in the religious practices of each family. There is nothing fanatical or even centralized in the religious practices of this faith.
The religious bigotry displayed by the University attack is simply an extension of the long history of efforts to suppress the traditional Hawaiian faith. Much of the motivation for those attacks has been the effort to supplant the traditional faith with other religions. It is the traditional faith that has been the target for religious intolerance and oppression.
I am attaching three documents: (1) The original motion by the Temple (2) The opposition by the University and (3) the reply to that opposition by the Temple.
The Temple considers the University attack on the traditional faith to be shameful and trusts that the University will apologize at the pre-hearing conference scheduled on Friday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m. at the YMCA, 300 West Lanikaula St., Hilo.
[Editor’s note: the content and style of this letter is unedited]